Michigan’s Welfare Drug Testing Trial Results are Surprising [OPINION]
Michigan's decision to drug test welfare applicants was met with both cheers and jeers from residents, with opinions falling mostly along party lines. Now that we have some preliminary results of the pilot program, I think it's safe to say that both sides are surprised at the outcome.
This article contains some opinions that are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Banana 101.5, Townsquare Media, or their advertisers.
First, a little perspective.
Rick Snyder has accumulated an interesting list of "accomplishments" during his roughly one-and-a-half terms as Governor of Michigan. There are some highlights among said list, but once his final term has run its course, he will most likely be remembered for his failures and divisive decisions.
Snyder's role in the Flint water crisis alone would be enough to end almost any political career, but that hasn't stopped him from making other unpopular, and arguably harmful, moves, like ending the beloved film tax incentives that brought Hollywood to The Mitten, the recent approval of roadside drug-testing using inaccurate methods, giving the kiss of death to the widely-supported marijuana legalization ballot initiative, and, of course, the crown jewel in the "F--- you, poor people" collection -- the approval of welfare drug testing.
As has been seen in other states who've gone this route -- welfare drug testing policies are extremely polarizing. There are those who are so aggressively opposed to it that you're almost suspicious of their motivation, those who support it so emphatically that you're definitely suspicious of their motivation, and a bunch of us who fall in the middle.
Honestly, I fall to the left (and far left) on most issues, but this is not one of those. I support reform of government assistance programs, mostly because I've lived both sides of the issue. There was a time when my family wouldn't have made it without government assistance, but I used the program the way it was intended -- as a way to help me get to where I no longer needed help. I believe it to be a useful and necessary program. However, I personally know of despicable people who are so willing to game the system, that they've turned down chances to advance their situation just to continue the free ride at the expense of taxpayers, all while spending their own money on getting lit. Forget that. Able-bodied people should be using government assistance as a safety net, not a wheelchair.
Now -- the results.
Whether or not you support "welfare drug testing," I think we can all agree that the results of Michigan's pilot program are quite surprising. In recent years, several other states have initiated programs like this, and the consensus seems to be that it's a costly and ineffective venture. However, I don't think any state has yielded results as low as Michigan's year-long pilot program (which began in October 2015 and ends September 30) has thus far.
The participating counties of Allegan, Clinton, and Marquette reported zero applicants that tested positive for illegal drug use after administering around 303 tests in May. I just contacted the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and they confirmed that the number of positive tests is still zero, with just over a month to go in the pilot program. Everyone that is at least somewhat familiar with this program assumed the numbers would be low, but not that low.
The results could mean one of two things: The program is working as a deterrent, or it's really not working. I'm inclined to believe that it's the latter, but we'll know for sure once the full report (due before December 1st) on the program is released, and we can look to see if there was a drop-off in application rates and so on. Even though I support finding a way to cut out fraud and neglect of government assistance programs, I think the results support that this is not the way to do it. Regardless of its effectiveness, the program could still be implemented statewide after Governor Snyder reviews the results.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Are programs like these just a waste of money? Is there a better way? If you've got thoughts on the matter -- we want to hear them. Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook.